Australia is a continent and it is also a country of its own.Australia is located between the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.Australia is often called, "the land down under," because it lies entirely within the southern hemisphere.In Latin, Australia means "southern."The official name of the country is "the Commonwealth of Australia."
Australia is surrounded by water like an island, but geographers classify it as a continent rather than an island because of its great size.Australia covers about 5% of earth's land area.Most of Australia is low and flat, the highest and most mountainous land lies along the east coast.Nearly all the land west of this region consists of level plains and plateaus.
At one time, all the continents were part of one huge land mass.Australia became separated from this landmass about 200 million years ago.As a result, its animals developed differently from those on other continents.Australia's most famous native animals include kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, and other marsupials.
Australia'sfirst settlers were ancestors of today's Aborigines.They may have reached the continent as early as 50 thousand years ago and came from Asia by way of New Guinea.When thefirst whites arrived in 1788, about 750 thousand Aborigines lived in Australia.The European discovery of Australia began with the discovery of New Guinea by Portuguese and Spanish explorers during the 1500s.These explorers and others after them were searching for a mysterious continent that they believed lay south of Asia.Between 1616 and 1636 other Dutch navigators explored Australia's west, southwest, and northwest coasts.Explorers then began to believe they had found the mysterious southern continent.In 1642 and 1643, Abel Janszoon Tasman, a Dutch sea captain, sailed the continent without sighting it.During his voyage, he visited a landmass…


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